“Enough with the pacing,” Charlotte said. “You’re making me nervous, and I’m not really all that worried about her.”
“Well, I am,” Jack said, turning and walking back along the row of empty chairs in the waiting area.
Hannah looked up from the magazine she’d been flipping through. “Oh, let him pace. Unless you want him sitting next to you, tapping his foot.”
Charlotte rolled her eyes, marked her place in the book she’d brought, and got up.
“Come on, Squirt. Let’s go find something to drink.” She held out a hand for Ellie.
“Can I have a soda?”
“I don’t know…” Charlotte hedged. “What would Mom and Dad say?”
Ellie scrunched her nose up as she thought. “Well… If we went to get a drink, and there was a drink there that somebody forgot to pick up…”
Charlotte grinned, and wiggled her fingers. Ellie giggled and took her sister’s hand. They started off down the hall, wondering what drink a stranger could possibly leave behind in the machine.
“She is such a bad influence,” Hannah said, shaking her head.
Jack muttered an agreement, then went back to staring at the industrial carpeting just ahead of his feet.
After a third pass, Hannah dropped the magazine to her lap. “Okay, much as I hate to say it, Charlotte’s right. Enough, Jack. Come sit down.”
“They’ve been in there for hours,” he said, collapsing into one of the chairs.
“They’re doing tests, Jack. Those take time. Especially with Beth’s… ah… circumstances.”
“She wasn’t glowing.”
“There could be other effects we can’t see.”
“She shouldn’t have done it, not so close to… that.”
“Period, Jack. You can say it.”
“It tires her out.”
“It’s not just her, Jack, trust me.”
“Not… that. The other thing. The Dreaming.”
Hannah raised her hands. “Okay, now you’re going off into spooky territory.”
Jack sat in silence, hunched over in the chair, arms crossed, staring at his feet.
“What if it hurts her?” he finally asked.
Hannah looked up from the magazine. “Jack, nobody’s going to hurt her.”
“No, not here. There,” Jack waved a hand vaguely in the air. “When she does a Dreamwalk.”
Jack shrugged. “I don’t know what else to call it.”
“What if it does, Jack?”
“Then she shouldn’t do it,” he said.
“But she did. Twice.”
“Well, she shouldn’t have. Why are you looking at me like that?”
Hannah turned the magazine over on her lap, started paging through it.
“What?” Jack pressed.
“Nothing,” she said, turning the page. “If you haven’t already thought of it, you probably aren’t ready to think about it.”
“You know, I always hated when you and Charlotte would play ‘keep-away.’”
Hannah stared at her brother for a long moment, then closed the magazine on her lap.
“Jack, when Beth fell out of that tree, why did you catch her?”
Jack blinked. “Well, I said I was going to, for one thing.”
“No, Jack. Why did you catch her?”
“I— She… She would have been hurt if I didn’t. Probably really bad.”
“Even though you knew you weren’t ready, that you couldn’t catch her safely?”
“I couldn’t just stand there when I could help, could I?”
“Couldn’t you? You wouldn’t have been hurt, then.”
“No! I had to! She needed—”
“Oh,” Jack said. He sighed. “So this is all my fault.”
“It’s not about fault, Jack. It’s just what friends do for each other.”
Jack breathed another sigh. “For a second there, I thought you were going to say ‘love.’”
Hannah picked up the magazine. “Maybe I was right,” she said.